Today's inspirational interview is with Dmitri Sarle of the Substack newsletter #WeeklyAction.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My idea of 'myself' is a constantly changing one. Does my profession as a startup entrepreneur, investor, mentor, speaker - define me? Perhaps I am better described through my hobbies of martial arts, chess, sailing, and badminton? Better yet, maybe it's all about my marital status and fatherhood? Income? Country? Society? Do all of these define anyone, or do they put people in a box of stereotypes instead?
So let's go with a different description. To be me is to have an experience of utter curiosity for life combined with constant fast-paced action towards poorly defined goals. Too many directions are of interest. That, however, is my super-power as what others see as chaos and difficulty, I see as opportunity and beauty. Just need to figure out how to focus.
How would you describe your newsletter?
'Random Weekly Self-Development'
'The Toolbox For Your Personal Battle'
That's how my subscribers have labeled it. As for me, I got curious about a problem. The problem of helping people achieve real, significant, and long-lasting change in their lives.
It's great to watch Tony Robbins, Jim ?, or Jordan Peterson talk and get inspired by them. It is even more profound to study Seneca and to listen to Alan Watts. Yet, how much of that gets translated into real action?
That's when I had the idea. What if there was a newsletter mainly focused on taking action towards self-betterment? That's how #WeeklyAction was born.
Why did you decide to publish on Substack?
One of my beliefs about business is that one should initially prioritize speed over almost any other aspect. Not for any 'practical' reason, though. Simply to fuel the fire of passion, for inaction will extinguish it.
That is to say, if you are walking in a park and suddenly an idea strikes you, as if from nowhere - be it a startup, a newsletter, or any other kind - you must act and do so with haste. Alternatively - every passing minute, the desire and the motivation for it will subside.
Once the idea of creating a newsletter based on 'completing actions' instead of simply 'content' came to mind, I had to act quickly. Within a few hours, I identified Substack as the most simple tool available. Within the next 24 hours - I had my first post. From there on, it was all about consistency.
As an added bonus, as I explored the different tools - I realized that I have actually met the co-founder of Substack (Hamish McKenzie) before, and it's always nice to support your direct connections.
What has your experience with your newsletter been like?
It challenges me every day and every week. Not just because it requires effort and commitment. You see, I promised my subscribers that I will do every action that I suggest that they do. So each week, I not only challenge my subscribers, but I challenge myself.
Any business/activity you engage in is a mirror to how you live your life. The challenges you have with it will be similar to any other challenges you normally have.
The newsletter is teaching me the art of focus, consistency, commitment, relationships, and so much more. It also allows me to express what it's like to be me.
If you are reading this, and you still have not decided to start your newsletter, your business, to pursue that career you really love - wait no further. This is your sign to take action, for as I can tell you with confidence - pursuing your true passion is a gift that never stops giving - no matter how challenging the path.
How have you let people know about your newsletter?
Once I had the idea, and the first newsletter - I ran with excitement to post the news to my social media. My rationality predicted that out of over 10.000 people across different profiles, I should get a decent amount of followers right off the bat. The actual result? Three subscribers.
Suffice to say, that was a little sub-par (pun intended). Social media simply does not want to promote anything that moves users away from their platforms.
Therefore I turned to 'growth hacking,' or to make it more accurate, I should say - 'laborious growth.' That is - inviting my network individually and one by one. To that end, I grabbed all of my e-mail contacts from Google Contacts, listed all of my LinkedIn contacts in an excel sheet, and started messaging them individually.
The e-mails converted poorly, but direct messages were doing very well. The key was to not immediately send the invite link but to ask whether they would be interested. Here is a sample:
"Hey, John! Having moved on from ArcticStartup, I am now starting a newsletter on #weekly self-development and entrepreneurial tips. Would that be interesting for you?"
To make it more personal, I would add custom comments as much as I could. This resulted in the first 500 subscribers, and I am not even at 50% of my network.
Is there a post in your newsletter that you consider most memorable, and if so, why?
Two come to mind right away. First is Action #0017 - Your Perfect Day. This is a well-known exercise that I have augmented with a few of my own ideas, and it is so memorable to me because it changed my life on the spot. To this day, I remember my own vision of my perfect day, and it keeps me going.
The other is Action #0014 - On Death And Purpose, as it was the first one that got a rather sweet and meaningful reply from a subscriber of mine, explaining just how much it affected them. It means the world to me to know that someone finds value in what I do.
What do you hope for your newsletter in the foreseeable future?
As commented already - your business is a mirror to your soul. If you have the wrong motivation for starting it - it will never work. Same with personal relationships.
Therefore, I made it very clear to myself that my goal is not to make a living but to - first and foremost - have a place where I can fully express myself while trying to provide value.
Thus, my hope is to simply keep on doing it to the best of my ability, making sure each new post improves the newsletter overall and helps me deliver more value.
That said, I do have some developments in the 'idea generation stage':
A Podcast on practical self-development (if you know anyone who should be on it, let me know)
Deeper personal and theoretical articles
Using more videos
More engagement in my Telegram Group
Workshops & Webinars
Whitepapers to attract a larger audience
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Simply, that if you are struggling in self-development, know that we all are, no matter how successful we might seem on the outside. Here is a short-story I wrote on the matter:
It's on. The fight. The battle. The war. The troops are assembled, the battleplan - ready, the training - completed. Countless hours of meditation, months of intense contemplation, a workshop or two, and even a talk by a guru for your personal war.
Will that be enough? Will I finally win? Just to be sure, I think I should schedule an ayahuasca retreat, a few relationship workshops, throw in some time-management books, a couple of TED talks, a strict sports regimen, and a perfect sleeping routine.
Something is missing, I feel it down in my bones. Perhaps I need a little more calcium, or maybe less meat. I Gotta stay strong and read a few books on willpower and stoicism, for tomorrow, it starts. The day that will be the beginning of change, the day when I will stop holding it back, the day when I let myself go. The day when I will fully express all the beauty within, without fear or pain.
Just need to stay focused, and prepare like hell. Water, hydration, routine. If anyone can ever be ready, it's me. Wait, I need to make a few notes in my journal before I begin. Some affirmations will help, a few goals for the night, and a plan for the next day.
Dream interpretations. Past trauma recapitulations. Strong, loving relations. Wake up, get up, do some yoga, and martial art preparations. Breathing techniques for good measure. Today is the day. Today I begin. Just let me get to my screen.
Open my laptop, log in with my password. Today is the day. There will not be any distractions, and I will only do positive, affirmative, and life-supportive actions. I will follow my purpose, my dream, I will find the success that's within.
Just don't look at the notifications, don't open distractions, don't... Wait, what's that? A new meme? Oh, just one click for a second, I have to see this Reddit short film.
Eight hours have passed. F#$@. Well, I guess I will just have to do it all over again. Maybe some detox is needed, cold showers, and a little less pain.
It's on. The fight. The battle. The war. Tomorrow it starts. The day that will be the beginning of change, the day when I will stop holding it back, the day when I let myself go. The day when I will fully express all the beauty within, without fear or pain.